HONDA RACING: Philadelphia dvdrip
Conditions could hardly have been worse for this afternoon’s MotoGP qualifying session at the Sachsenring, with heavy rain contributing to a rash of crashes, none of them with serious consequences. Reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) took pole position at the very end of the soaking one-hour session, demoting team-mate Jorge Lorenzo to second fastest. Casey Stoner (Ducati) completed the front row.
Honda’s quickest two riders were Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) who will start tomorrow’s German Grand Prix from the second row of the grid, despite both men falling during the session. De Angelis and de Puniet were two of many riders to fall foul of ultra-slippery tarmac in the fast, downhill section at turns seven and eight, but both men were able to return to the pits after their tumbles and continue on their second machines. Other fallers included De Angelis’ team-mate Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini), Ducati riders Nicky Hayden and Niccolo Canepa and Marco Melandri (Kawasaki).
Good grip and feedback are the real secrets to going fast in the rain, and that’s what Honda’s riders focused on today. But with the track badly flooded in several places riders had to work hard to control aquaplaning, let alone find any real feel from the waterlogged tarmac. De Puniet likened turn seven to “an ice-skating rink”, pole man Rossi talked of “deep rivers” around the track and 2007 MotoGP World Champion Stoner called the conditions “dangerous”.
This morning’s final free practice session was run in very different conditions, with a dry track allowing the fastest riders to lap well inside the lap record. Tomorrow’s weather forecast is uncertain with a possibility of a wet or dry race, but Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) knows what kind of race he’d prefer. Winner of the recent US GP, Pedrosa was a close third fastest this morning, but in rain-soaked qualifying he was eighth, giving him a third-row start. Pedrosa took a while to get up to speed in the rain because he has less experience of Bridgestone’s rain tyres than most of his rivals, having missed a lot of preseason testing due to injury.
De Angelis briefly led the session, getting good feeling from a used rain tyre, but when he switched to a new tyre he struggled to get the same level of feedback and ended up sliding off at turn eight. The San Marino rider continued on his spare bike and depite being unable to better his previous pace was happy with his best qualifying performance of the year which puts him on the second row for the first time in 2009.
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) worked hard on perfecting the chassis set-up of his RC212V, focusing on rear-end stability into corners. The Italian found the rain-lashed conditions risky and knows he will need a fast start tomorrow to come through from the fourth row of the grid.
Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) rode a MotoGP bike for the very first time during practice for last month’s Catalan GP. Today he rode a MotoGP bike in heavy rain for the very first time. The Hungarian made steady progress throughoutthe qualifying and ended the one-hour outing with plenty of ideas to improve his wet-weather pace.
Elias struggled to get feeling from his tyres and ended up last on the grid following a spectacular tumble at turn eight. The Spaniard was highsided from his RC212V but ended up lying on the top of the bike, finally falling to the ground as the machine careered towards the air fence, making impact at 142km/h. He was unharmed in the fall but has a mammoth task ahead of him tomorrow – fighting through from the very back of the grid.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Alex De Angelis, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 5th – 1m 34.490s “We started out really well and my lap times were good in the early part of the session when we were using a tyre that we had put a few laps on in yesterday’s damp session. With a new tyre it was really hard to generate the heat to get it working at optimum temperature but gradually I started to feel better. Then unfortunately I crashed in the corner where everybody else went down too. It is never a nice feeling to crash but especially when I know that I could have made an attack at least for the front row. Anyway, fifth place is a fantastic result for us and if it rains again tomorrow then we’re ideally placed. Even if it is dry we know we have a good starting position and good pace for what I hope can be my best race of the season.”
Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda: 6th – 1m 34.564s “We have got a good grid position and I am quite satisfied but it has not been easy because wet sessions are always a gamble. Everybody pushes to find the limit but sometimes we push too much and we crash. I was very fast in my first run (12 laps) and my wet set-up was almost perfect. Unfortunately I crashed at turn seven because I opened the throttle too much and the asphalt was like an ice-skating rink! After that I went out on my second bike but it took me some time to find the right pace. When I started to push I had some engine brake issues and with two laps to go I went out in the gravel. The guys must work hard to repair both bikes for tomorrow but I feel confident as we made a good performance in both conditions.”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 8th – 1m 34.725s “Qualifying in eighth isn’t ideal, so I’ll be trying to make another good start tomorrow. That’s going to be important here because the first turn is quite close to the start line, plus it’s difficult to overtake at this track. The conditions were quite difficult this afternoon, they were changing all the time and I was struggling to get into a good rhythm. There were a lot of riders crashing out there and I don’t have a lot of experience on this year’s wet tyres because I missed some testing earlier in the season. This was why I wasn’t going so quickly this afternoon. It wasn’t because of my crash in last year’s wet race. It was good that we had a dry practice session this morning and of course I’d prefer a dry race tomorrow. The forecast is not certain so we’ll aim to improve our set-up for both wet and dry conditions.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: 11th – 1m 34.892s “The grip levels were quite low this afternoon which meant the machine was sliding a lot – this was the same for everyone of course. We were working on wet settings and the area we primarily need to improve is the stability of the rear on the entry to the corners. This is where the bike was tricky to control in the slippery conditions.
It was raining throughout the session and this meant the track was getting increasingly wet. If I had the choice, I’d prefer the less wet conditions from earlier in the session – and ideally fully dry of course. We’ll have to see what the weather does tomorrow and aim to make a fast start and make up some places quickly.”
Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda: 16th – 1m 36.055s “This was my first time on a MotoGP bike in the wet. We began with a basic set-up, then we stopped, as programmed, to switch to my second bike and we improved. With 17 minutes to go I stopped for the third time to change tyres and to modify the set-up. We did not get what we desired from a set-up point of view, but we now have a few ideas to help us improve in case the race is wet.”
Toni Elias, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 17th – 1m36.531s “I didn’t feel as comfortable today as I did yesterday in the wet or the dry. Track temperature was 15ºC lower and I really felt the difference. It was taking too long to get any heat into the tyre and even when I did the feeling wasn’t there. It wasn’t a good day and it finished off with a crash, which I was lucky to come away from without any injury. I’d had a few warnings beforehand, the bike was sliding around in a lot of places, and then I lost control and the next thing I knew I was laying on top of the bike like I was sunbathing or something! It’s funny to watch on television but I can assure you it wasn’t so funny for me. Hopefully the fans get the chance to sunbathe tomorrow because we need a dry race. I’m starting from last place so it will be a tough race for sure. My only option is to fight and pass as many people as I can. Let’s hope we have the conditions and a set-up that allows me to do so.”